Shuichiro Megata Japanese Ambassador to Mexico

WHAT IS THE PRESENT STATUS OF THE DIPLOMATIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JAPAN AND MEXICO?

Contact between Japan and Mexico started in 1609, when the galleon ship San Francisco was shipwrecked off Onjuku, on the Pacific coast of Japan. The ship and its crew were rescued by the local people. Since then, friendly exchanges have continued and in January 1614 the first official commercial and diplomatic mission led by a Samurai, Tsunenaga Hasekura, arrived at Acapulco.

After meeting with the Spanish viceroy the mission departed from Veracruz to visit Spain and Rome. The purpose of the mission was to establish direct trade between Japan and Mexico known at the time as Nueva España (New Spain). As a result, and four centuries later, we will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival to Mexico of this epic mission in 2014.

In addition to this, Japan and Mexico have always helped each other in times of adversity, such as the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, the Mexico City Earthquake in 1985, the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and the Great East Japan Earthquake in March of last year. The support from Mexico to Japan on the occasion of the recent earthquake added a new page to the traditionally friendly relationship. Furthermore, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Japan and Mexico, which entered into force in 2005, is a testimony to the relation of mutual benefits and strategic global partnership which has existed across time and space between the two countries. I really hope that the bonds of friendship (“kizuna”) will continually be strengthened in the future.

AS AN AMBASSADOR WHAT IS YOUR PLAN OF ACTION THIS YEAR TO DEVELOP TERMS THAT WILL STRENGTHEN THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JAPAN AND MEXICO?

In 2012 Mexico became the center of attention of the international society by successfully hosting the G20 Summit in June and carrying out the presidential elections in July. Against this backdrop, the importance of the bilateral relationship between Japan and Mexico has been growing in economic and commercial areas. This is exemplified by the Protocol Amending the Economic Partnership Agreement expanding access to each other’s markets and increasing investment in new plant construction which has been announced by three Japanese automobile manufacturers.

For this reason, I would like to continue my very best efforts to foster this important economic relationship by improving the business and investment environment, supporting Japanese companies, as well as by providing the necessary assistance to Japanese residents in Mexico.

In addition, I would like to continue our efforts to promote and support cultural and academic exchange and the diffusion of Japanese language education. This should be done in order to further deepen the mutual understanding between our two countries.

This year the exhibition “Samurái-tesoros de Japón” (Samurai- Treasures of Japan) is taking place at the National Anthropology Museum from July 26th to October 21st. It will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the sister city affiliation between Mexico City and City of Nagoya. This is a perfect example of the excellent relationship between the two countries.

In the astrological cycle of Japan called “Eto”, this year is the year of the dragon. The dragon is a symbol of ascent and strength.

Japan would like to enhance its cooperation with Mexico not only on bilateral issues, but also on the global issues being confronted by international society such as the achievement of a stable world economy. This is being done with the spirit of the Samurai and the strength of the Asian dragon.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE ECONOMIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JAPAN AND MEXICO?

Japan and Mexico have a history of modern economic relations that go back more than 100 years. The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Japan and Mexico that was signed in 2004 and entered into force in 2005, resulted in a huge impact on the mutual cooperation between our two countries in the economic area. Bilateral trade approximately doubled in 2007 compared to that in 2004 and in spite of the world economic crisis, bilateral trade is expected to expand even further.

With regard to Japanese investment in Mexico, it is estimated that new investments announced by Japanese companies from 2005 to the first half of this year have reached a total of more than US$85 billion.

In contrast to the sluggish economies in many developed countries, the Mexican economy is strong and expanding. We see a high growth potential for Mexico because of its abundant natural resources and robust work force, as well as free trade agreements with 44 countries. At the same time, we also recognize there are challenges for Mexico, such as the need to cope with the regional and/or structural gap between rich and poor. The auto parts industry needs to be developed and the relationship with Asian countries strengthened. Another important goal is to diversify the source of energy supply.

We believe that Japanese investment will contribute in a positive way to the Mexican economy by providing job opportunity as well as by developing human resources and technical capacity.

The government of Japan has a policy of growing together with emerging economies such as Mexico, so I believe that it will be possible to strengthen our bilateral cooperation further through development of Mexican industry, dealing with energy and environment issues, promoting free trade, and focusing on other priorities. I’m firmly convinced that Japan and Mexico will be able to continue building strategic relations based on mutual benefits and a dynamic complementary relationship.

WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR JAPANESE TRADE AND INVESTMENT IN MEXICO FOR THE END OF THIS YEAR (2012)?

Since my arrival in Mexico in May of last year, the Japanese companies, especially the automobile and auto-parts industries, are actively investing in Mexico. The major Japanese automobile companies such as Mazda, Honda and Nissan, have announced new investments. We expect that approximately 100 Japanese companies will have made new investments in Mexico from the second half of last year up to this year. Now Mexico is estimated to have the 8th largest production capacity and 4th largest automobile exporting capacity in the world.

The attractions of Mexico include its geographical location because it is next to the U.S. market which is a very big market for autos. There is also its open and non-discriminating investment environment, plus its abundant work force. More and more attention is being paid these days to the strategic value of Mexico as a production base. For instance, the central area of Mexico which is a destination for many Japanese investments has access to major ports on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. And there are many excellent roads and railroads connecting directly to the United States. This also facilitates exports from Mexico to South American countries, something which has shown remarkable growth in recent years. So for Japanese companies, Mexico is a foothold to vital markets in North and South America. Mexico already has free trade agreements with more than 40 countries including the U.S. and the European Union and I am aware that Mexico is working hard to diversify commercial relationships in areas including Asia.

I believe that the opportunities for investment in Mexico are not limited to traditional areas such as automobile, electrical appliances, electronics and infrastructure, but could include areas such as tourism, food, metal and petrochemical industries.

WILL THE PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION IN MEXICO AFFECT THE COMMERCIAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES?

In the campaign platform of Mr. Peña Nieto, the interim elect -President, he put the promotion of diplomatic relationships with the Asian region as one of his priorities. In addition, he visited the Saitama Prefecture in Japan when he was Governor of the State of Mexico because of the existing sister- city affiliation. So, I am hopeful that the relationship between Japan and Mexico will see further deepening with the new administration.

In the economic field, in particular, the policies of the new administration will influence Japanese manufacturers. A good example is if the security in the border areas between Mexico and the U.S. sees improvement. If that happens foreign investment in Mexico and the number of tourists will certainly increase and the attractiveness of Mexico for Japanese companies will be further enhanced.

ANY LAST COMMENT FOR THE MEXICONOW SUBSCRIBERS?

One year has passed since I assumed my post of Japanese Ambassador to Mexico. That was in May, 2011. As neighboring countries across the Pacific Ocean, Japan and Mexico have a friendly relationship which has been formed through the good will exchanges of over 400 years. All this is based on the spirit of “mutual help for mutual benefit”. In addition, Mexico is the first Latin-American country which has welcomed Japanese immigrants.

Mexico is an important partner for Japan sharing basic values and whose importance is increasing in the international area. Moreover, in recent years, we see that the bilateral relationship is growing even closer.

As the Ambassador of Japan in Mexico, I will continue to make my utmost efforts to strengthen and develop our bilateral relations even more. I will endeavor to do this by further promoting bilateral exchange, strengthening economic relations through trade and investment, and strengthen cooperation on the global issues.

These efforts will be based on the strategic and global partnership existing between Japan and Mexico.